[Apologies for those who got this twice. I pushed PUBLISH yesterday when I meant to push PREVIEW. I wish there was an easy way to undo that.
Author’s Note: August is the Dog(fish Head) days of Summer here at The Dogs of Beer. All throughout the month I’ll be looking exclusively at the beers from DFH.]
Sahti is a traditional brew made in Finland dating back to the 9th century. The beer can include barley, wheat, rye and oats, and is usually fermented or flavored with juniper berries. Traditional Sahti is a non-boiled beverage. Since no hops are used the wort didn’t require it, so the brew would go right from the lauter tun to the fermenter. Sah’tea, released in 2009, is an ancient ale nod from DFH to that ancient Finnish brew. Let’s taste.
THEM: Let’s just turn to the DFH description, “The wort for Sah’tea is caramelized over white-hot river rocks, and the beer is fermented with a German weizen yeast. In addition to juniper berries foraged from the Finnish countryside, Sah’tea is flavored with black tea.”
The white-hot rocks might seem odd to some. But in days of old, metal brew kettles were uncommon so wood vats were used instead. Visualize a roaring fire under a wood vat. Yeah, you get it. So rocks were heated in fires until they were as hot as they could get and then dropped into the vats of brew. The rocks were so hot that they not only increased the wort to the desired temperature, but also would instantly caramelize the sugars surrounding them giving the brew a unique flavor. Post boil, DFH adds a “tea” of ramp leaves (Allium tricoccum, commonly referred to as ramp, spring onion, wild garlic or wild leeks) , Chai tea, Cumin and Corriander. It is then fermented with a German weizen yeast to 9%ABV and is listed to have 6 IBUs.
ME: Nice looking beer, light amber, good level of carbonation. But this beer crashes and burns for me pretty quickly. The nose is light, but definitely brings forth phenols, juniper and bananas (a characteristic that Sahti is supposed to have) which almost gives it a bubble gum vibe. There’s also an herbalness that I’m assuming comes from the Chai Tea. The flavor is more of the same, although I get the herbalness more than the juniper berries, which all in all has an almost clove flavor to me with a hint of honey floating around. This would be a profile I’d expect out of a Christmas beer, and considering where the style comes from maybe I’m not to far off with that assertion. As you’d expect, t 6 IBUs, Sah’tea doesn’t have a crisp finish. Instead it finishes with that clove/juniper flavor which isn’t horribly overwhelming unless you don’t like these flavors – which I don’t.
The total presentation isn’t bad if you can get past the flavors. The ending is clean, the body is on the light side and it serves to hide the 9% ABV pretty well (although there is a slight warmth which I think comes more from the spice than the alcohol).
The only thing I can think of is that the Fins were trying to mask an otherwise horrible tasting drink with anything they happen to have handy. And if these flavors sound good to you, this is right up your alley. If not, you’re probably with me and giving this a TASTER. This is not the beer you want to plunk your hard earned money on unawares. Trust. Clean, well constructed, but the flavors may not appeal to everyone.
If this does sound like your glass of beer, this ancient ale isn’t exclusive. New Belgian Brewing produces a Sahti Ale, and Samuel Adams Norse Legend is based on the style.
Time for another beer.